Monday, July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021

Linkedin Pinterest

Working in Clark County: Deanna Hillstrom, nurse at Vancouver Clinic

By , Columbian Staff writer, news assistant
Published:
5 Photos
Deanna Hillstrom, 28, started her journey to nursing after her brother was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq while serving in the military. She now is the nurse in charge of infection prevention and control at Vancouver Clinic.
Deanna Hillstrom, 28, started her journey to nursing after her brother was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq while serving in the military. She now is the nurse in charge of infection prevention and control at Vancouver Clinic. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In the middle of the fight against COVID-19 are the country’s health care professionals such as Deanna Hillstrom, a registered nurse who works in the infection prevention and control/medical affairs department at Vancouver Clinic.

Her role is not to directly treat patients, but to coordinate the response to COVID-19 across the clinic’s seven medical offices and two administrative offices. Each year, Vancouver Clinic provides care for more than a third of Clark County’s population, according to spokeswoman Chastell Ely.

Hillstrom, 28, worked in the urgent care clinic for 5 1/2 years before starting her current job at the end of February. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic one week later.

“Nothing like jumping in,” she said, adding that she has been working between 80 and 90 hours in a week. “We’re establishing workflows across the entire organization to make sure there’s alignment across locations.”

Ensuring that each location is responding the same way is important, Hillstrom said, as guidelines from the federal government change and evolve. Helping to manage the response has been a big, but welcome, challenge, she said.

Vancouver clinic

Number of employees: Vancouver Clinic, which operates nine locations across the region, has more than 1,200 employees including 400 medical providers. Hillsrom works from the administration building at 13898 N.E. 28th St.

Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook: Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 12 percent through 2028. “Growth will occur for a number of reasons, including an increased emphasis on preventive care; increasing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity; and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population, as this group leads longer and more active lives,” the bureau reports. The average hourly wage for a registered nurse in the  metro area is $45.87 per hour, or $95,420 annually. 

Hillstrom moved to the Pacific Northwest six years ago. She attended nursing school at Finlandia University in her home state of Michigan, then studied nursing around the world before landing in Vancouver’s Salmon Creek neighborhood.

The Columbian caught up with Hillstrom to learn more about her job.

How did you land in this line of work?

I grew up in a family of 16 siblings. Two were in the military. One was in Iraq. I spent some time in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and ever since then I knew I wanted to be in a line of work where I could help people.

Was the sibling who served in Iraq injured?

Yeah, he was hit by a roadside bomb when I was 14. He’s alive and well, so I’m thankful for that, for sure.

When you were at the hospital with your brother, what exactly was it you saw that drew you in?

I think it was spending time there; there were a lot of patients that had no legs, in wheelchairs and unable to help themselves. There was so little I could do at that time.

WORKING IN CLARK COUNTY

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Lyndsey Hewitt: lyndsey.hewitt@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

What exactly do you do in a day?

Typically how it starts is I run a situation team management meeting. That’s with our CEO and director of medical affairs, lab administrators, some nurse educators and our supply chain team. We talk about our supply needs. We started video visits, creating new policies. I partner really closely with Clark County Public Health; I’m on the phone with them many times a day. I have a team in medical affairs who I send out everyday to collect specimens from the skilled nursing facilities, so patients don’t need to leave their homes.

The clinic is collecting specimens and bringing them to be tested?

We go to the facility and bring the specimen back to the lab for testing. We’ve also been working with local first responders in an effort to protect those serving on the frontline. We’ve created a fast track for them to get tested at our Columbia Tech Center and Ridgefield locations.

How at risk are first responders for contracting coronavirus?

I would say at high risk, especially those going out in the field. A lot of them, such as paramedics, don’t always know what they’re walking into.

What are the infection rates you’re seeing for first responders?

It’s not been a large number yet because we just rolled this out last week. I do have weekly calls with our emergency medical services partners on Monday evenings, and it sounds like they’ve been pretty healthy.

What has changed since the start of the pandemic?

Our biggest change has been the introduction of video visits. You’re able to talk about chronic conditions and stay home and still get the care you need. We’ve never done them in the past.

WORKING IN CLARK COUNTY

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Lyndsey Hewitt: lyndsey.hewitt@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

What are some of the misconceptions people have about this virus and the way it works?

It depends on who you talk to. I think that we’re noticing that a lot of individuals aren’t coming into the facilities because they’re afraid, thinking that as soon as you walk into the clinic, you’ll get COVID-19. We’re seeing patients aren’t getting the care they need because they’re afraid that if you go outside, you’re going to get it. I think we’ve seen some deaths because they’re waiting until last minute.

What’s your advice for people who may be worried they’re infected?

I recommend start by calling or doing a video visit with their health care provider. If they truly think they’re sick, don’t wait to go to the emergency room. I think facilities are doing a good job putting up barriers. Health care facilities are putting more precautions into place. We’re masking all of our patients, we’re putting up the 6 feet distancing markers.

How are you handling it personally?

I’ve been working closely with our executive team and medical affairs team who have been super-supportive. My church family has been super-supportive. It’s been a fun learning experience.

What has the situation at the clinic been like for supplies?

We actually have an excellent supply chain over here. We started off the first few weeks stressed about where we were going to stand with masks and gowns. As of right now, I don’t believe we’re experiencing a critical shortage of anything.

What are your thoughts on the state opening back up anytime soon?

I’m actually excited for it. As long as the state and different counties are careful about it. Taking those precautions are definitely needed. We’re more afraid of the ramifications down the road if we don’t open up. Some of the mental health across the nation — we’re hoping we can open up and take those infection control measures. It’s probably best to take it slow.

Loading...